'Anyone can play with this': Canadian Tire praised for breaking gender stereotypes in new holiday catalogue

Canadian Tire’s 2018 catalogue. Image via Twitter.

With the Sears Holiday Wishbook no longer with us (RIP), Canadian Tire has risen in the ranks as the go-to catalogue for children to build their Christmas wish lists for Santa. This year, the retailer is taking a new approach to its annual Christmas catalogue — and people are loving it.

The Canadian retail giant is being praised for depicting young boys and girls playing with toys that go against gender stereotypes.

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Instead of showing only girls playing with Barbies and baby dolls, and boys playing with cars and action figures, Canadian Tire presents a gender neutral approach to marketing. The catalogue features a young boy playing with a toy kitchen, next to a photo of a young girl playing with toy power tools. The juxtaposition is subtle, but experts say the impacts are far greater than we can possibly know.

In a recent interview with CTV News, David Soberman, a marketing professor at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management says the approach is indicative of a cultural shift in gender roles. 

“If you looked at a Canadian Tire catalogue from the 1960s, and you looked at the marketing of hockey equipment, you would not see many if any pictures of females playing hockey,” Soberman explained. “That’s a big change, but that’s a reflection of how society’s changed.”

Soberman notes that the company’s choices are part of a bigger marketing strategy for the brand.

“Canadian Tire’s doing more than trying to market the toys,” he continued.“They’re trying to market an image, which is that they’re progressive and trying to be in line with the views that we have now.”

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Online, parents are noticing the retailer’s new approach and giving credit where credit is due.

Andrea Tomkins, a mother and editor from Ottawa praised Canadian Tire on social media.

It may not seem like very much, but I think it’s really cool. A little girl is playing with a play tool set, and a boy is preparing food in a play kitchen,” she wrote on Twitter. “Also worth noting, the kitchen is red. A good, gender-neutral colour signals that ANYONE can play with this.”

Tomkins also shared video of a 2011 commercial advertising an Easy-Bake oven, calling its targeted marketing towards young girls “cringey.”

Tomkins’s tweets have received more than 3,000 likes and have sparked an online conversation about the need for increased gender neutral marketing.

Other parents were quick to point out that even the inclusion of a child model wearing glasses was a win for the company.


“Let’s just let kids play with toys and not let perceived gender roles get in the way,” Tomkins concluded. “All kids can – and should – play with pretend food, toy cars, dolls, building sets. All kids can dress up in pink or blue or green. Anyone can wear glittery nail polish.”

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